“The Dark Horse”

Craig Johnson

I’ve never been a big fan of westerns – nothing against them, really, just never got into the genre. Closest I’ve been is Westworld, which means it took a more-than-healthy dose of science fiction added on to catch my eye.

In this case, there was no such science fiction addition; knowing as little about the genre as I actually do, I suppose it’s possible that making it a mystery counts as some amount of genre crossover?

I did quite enjoy it, though. Looking at the cover now, I see that this is the fifth book in the series, but for most of the book I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by having skipped the first four. There’s a few references to past events here and there, and likely I would’ve known many of the characters a bit better, but Johnson did a good job of covering who everyone is as the book went that I didn’t feel left behind.

It was actually a pretty fun mystery to read, as well—having just come off a “my brain is full of COVID” Scooby Doo binge, it sure did a better job at keeping me guessing than Scooby manages. I didn’t figure out what was going on in this book until the book told me, but it’s because I wasn’t pulling at all the strings—I feel like if I’d been taking notes on the right things, I would’ve been able to solve the mystery a bit earlier.1

All in all, I had fun reading this! A nice little mystery, the protagonist is surprisingly fun given that he’s trying to be a grumpy old coot most of the time, and it does a good enough job conveying the setting that I feel like I’ve got dust on my skin. Check it out.2

  1. That doesn’t tend to be the case with Scooby-Doo, or at least not the “and Guess Who” iteration, where Velma finds a clue, shares with nobody, and builds the whole case around what we, the audience, never got to see.
  2. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.